Tag Archive | life struggles

Oh, the conflict!

Ellowyne Wilde is mad at me.

I have done so much writing and reading and researching over the last month or so that she’s feeling a little under-appreciated. With spring officially arriving tomorrow, Ellowyne has PLANS. But before she can implement her plans, I have to find time to drive two hours to Missoula just so I can visit a Michael’s Craft store…because the capital of Montana has no Michaels, no Hobby Lobby, and our Joann’s was downgraded a couple of years ago so it now only offers things that have to do with sewing or scrapbooking or jewelry-making or knitting/crocheting (though not felting). So, the store sells hardly any flowers, no baskets, and no seasonal décor. Meaning, you could walk in there the week before Christmas or the week before the Fourth of July and the store would look pretty much the same. No joke.

No, no, I’m not bitter. Do I sound bitter? I just live in the capital of the state, that’s all. One would think…never mind. The point is, Ello is just going to have to stew a little longer.

Talk

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The

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Hand.

Hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My world has been so focused on writing-orientated things, in fact, that I figured I’d have to skip my post for this week. Until I stumbled across a link in my Twitter feed this morning and decided to follow it. I discovered Angie Arndt’s post, Would You Write Anyway?, and my thoughts haven’t stopped churning since.

Someone had asked her this question: “If you were never published, would you write anyway?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself so many times. I thought I knew the answer—of course!—but now I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to answer that.

Think about something you enjoy doing. You’re good at it. You continue to learn the “tricks of the trade” and hone your skills as the years go on. You invest time, money, energy, tears into this passion. A decade passes. Maybe two. Over that span of time, you sacrifice other things here and there—lesser hobbies that couldn’t be fully developed, closer friendships, moments with your kids and significant other—to plug away at this one passion that drives you. If it’s knitting, you’ll leave a trail of gifts in your wake: clothes, handbags, accessories, stuffed animals, etc. If it’s wood-working, you’ll have bowls and vases and cutting boards and furniture and shelves… Painting? You’ll have scores of wall art or decorated furniture or snazzy interior walls for viewing… Pick a hobby/passion/job and follow it out for a few decades; you would hope to find something to show for your efforts, right?

But what if no one ever saw what you created? 

That’s how I feel about writing. Unless I get published, no one outside of my immediate family and those sweet friends who do me the honor of reading my WIPs (works-in-progress) will ever see what I have done with the time and talents God has given me. Is that enough? I guess that’s between God and the individual. For me, sitting here in 2015, taking it day by day with the future still an unknown, I’d say, yes, I’d still write. Because I’ve tried not writing before and by the end of the third week, I was about to explode from the pressure inside me that needed to write.

But if I come to the end of my life and I have nothing to show for my gift other than a bunch of works lingering in my laptop in different stages of completion…I’d be devastated! Each page of writing represents all of those things I listed earlier that I cannot get back: time, energy, sacrifice, tears, experiences, agony (am I doing the right thing?), etc, etc. Most of my almost-complete manuscripts consist of over 350 pages. If I never get published…that’s an enormous chunk of all facets of my life that I could have invested somewhere else, doing something more fruitful! Right?

Maybe.

I don’t know.

I don’t know!

Deep…breath.

Here’s what I do know: right now, I’m where God wants me, because I’m trying hard to keep my heart open to His leading and I’m okay—sitting here in 2015—with wherever He decides to take me. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and I’m excited about what He has to teach me in the future. And if I come to the end of my life and have no published works to show for it, then I’m trusting that at some point God will have told me, “This is as far as I want you to go with writing, Laurie. You are now free to turn your attentions and talents to those things that have been waiting in the background.”

Every one of us has a purpose, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. If we continue to press into Him and seek Him first, I believe He will direct us one day at a time in the way He wants us to go, so that by the end of our life on this earth, we’ll be able to look back and say, “I get it! I understand now why You did things that way. You are so awesome!”

So, will I still write even if I never get published?

Yes. Until God tells me to stop.

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In the words of Taylor Swift: Shake It Off!

I’m not a huge Taylor Swift fan (I’m in my late 30’s and my go-to music are works by Yanni and the soundtracks to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, so you’ll have to forgive me), but while I might not agree with everything she does or says, I still admire her ability to keep her chin up in the face of criticism and I applaud her talent as an amazing singer and song-writer. Whether or not you like the twang of country or the beat of pop, her songs convey a relatable story and usually reflect a slice of her life. Several weeks ago at my writer’s group, I was introduced to one of her more recent songs, Shake It Off (thanks, Ashley!). It now has a place in my iTunes account. If you have never seen the video that goes along with this song, I encourage you to check it out here. It’s hilarious…and yet quite profound. Really!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the song or won’t understand the lyrics because of the fast pace (cough—my parents—cough) (love you!), the gist of the song is this: Over the years, Taylor has been hammered and flogged by the press, tabloids, paparazzi, etc., who damn her in one breath, praise her in the second, and mock her in the third. She can either fold to their malicious talk and stew over every negative comment or she can…shake it off and continue to flourish in what she’s clearly good at—writing songs and performing for fans.

When I first heard the song and the reasoning behind it, I wondered how many of us need to shake off our own critics. How many of us would benefit from shaking off those voices inside and outside our heads that tell us we’re not good enough, or talented enough, or strong enough, or worth enough?

To take it to a spiritual level (because I’m a Jesus-follower and can’t help myself), it occurred to me recently that God wants me to shake it off—“it” being some false-teaching I received years ago from a brother in Christ when I still lived in Nebraska (yeah, sometimes I’m a slow learner). Now, in this man’s defense, he loves the Lord and has a heart to teach the Bible in an accurate manner. But because we’re all on our own spiritual journey, that means we’re not all at the same place in our faith and sometimes, we’re going to get things wrong. And this brother in Christ conveyed something inaccurately that caused the Bible to shrivel and whither in my life.

Suddenly I couldn’t approach Scripture the way I used to. Suddenly things I had believed since childhood didn’t necessarily make sense. I had a hard time applying positive, uplifting verses to my life, and all those biblical promises people talk about? I balked at them, certain that none of them applied to me since they weren’t written to me—they were written for an audience centuries ago.

Here’s an example to which some of you might relate: Many of us have heard people quote Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Are you smiling, Linda? You know where I’m going with this.) Okay, well, my brother in Christ told those of us in his class that this verse doesn’t apply to us today because it was a promise for the people of ancient Israel, not for the people of America—or any other present day nation (except, perhaps, for Israel :)). Oh, but how many times over the years have I heard this verse quoted by treasured brothers and sisters in Christ? And it always drove me batty. “You can’t use that promise for yourself!” I would want to shout out. “It doesn’t apply to you!” I kept quiet, of course, unless I was venting one-on-one with a trusted friend.

That is, until a few weeks ago when this piece of my past tumbled out in one of my counseling sessions (yes, I’m a Christian and yes, I see a counselor—who is also a Christian, by the way. I hope that liberates anyone else who feels like they could use advice and wisdom beyond the venting sessions with friends). With the help of my counselor, I realized I didn’t have to continue to hold onto these teachings when they had so clearly crippled my faith! We’re not talking baby faith, here; we’re not talking about the stubborn heart of a person who wants to do it “my way” and refuses good doctrine. Sure, I have moments of stubbornness and control-freak-itis, but those moments usually end with me crying out to God for His will and His knowledge. The point is my counselor encouraged me to shake off those bad teachings (not her exact words, but my mind did flit to Taylor Swift’s song as we talked). When I later reflected on the session, I felt like God was telling me I had hung onto those teachings for far too long, used them as an excuse to keep me shackled, and I needed to shake off those chains so I could progress down my path of faith.

When I said, “Okay,”—simple, right? Told you I’m a slow learner!—it was like breathing fresh air for the first time in years.That verse in Jeremiah? I came at it a different way and asked myself, “If I don’t think this applies to me then I’m essentially saying God doesn’t want me to prosper, He wants to harm me, and He doesn’t want me to have hope or a future.”  Um…let’s all give a resounding NO! That is totally, utterly false! God doesn’t seek to harm us—duh! We suffer at times because we’re a product of sin and we live in a sinful world, but it’s not God’s desire for us. God wants us to have hope and a future—both here on earth and later with Him in Heaven—for without hope, why then would we bother sharing the Good News with others? And God wants us to prosper…but His prosperity doesn’t look like the American dream, so let’s get money and fame and the world’s definition of success out of our heads. Instead, He wants us to thrive in our relationships with other people—as spouses and parents and friends and neighbors, etc.; He wants us to thrive in our gifting, whether it be teaching or serving or giving or leading; He wants us to thrive in our talents, wherever they lie; He wants us to thrive in our faith and our relationship with Him.

1 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Because God is active and living, His Word is active and living. It’s why different Bible verses pop out at us at different times in our lives; the same verse can be applied one way when I’m fourteen and a completely different way when I’m thirty-four, and yet another way when I’m seventy-four. So while we need to be careful about taking verses out of context and misapplying them, we also can’t stifle the Holy Spirit, for we never know how He’s going to use His Word to speak to us or a friend or a stranger.

…And let’s not underestimate His ability to grab hold of us through the refrain of a hit pop song!

What about you? Can you relate to my ramblings? Is there something you, too, need to “shake off”? I pray God would liberate you one step at a time like He continues to do with me.

To Failure!

This is usually the time when people make New Year’s resolutions in the hopes they can keep them. Yet, as statistics show, many fail before the month of January is over.

I haven’t made a resolution in years, possibly because I know I’m a work-in-progress—a creature of habit that needs constant nudges to keep me on track throughout the year, not just on January 1st.

But if I’m honest, it’s also because I’m afraid to fail. If I write down a resolution or goal for the upcoming year and it doesn’t get met…then I’ve failed, right? And since I already feel like I fail on a daily basis in just being a mother (whether in minor or major ways), do I really need to add more failures to the growing pile?

For 2015, however, there’s one area in which I hope I bomb—because it will actually reflect progress and a slice of success: after making a final polish of a completed manuscript I’ve let linger in the bowels of my laptop for two years, I plan to send off a bunch of query letters to publishers and agents. If you’re a writer or understand the process of becoming a published author, you know why I need to psych myself up…to fail.

Because I expect to receive a lot of rejection letters in return.

This is not pessimism, per se. This is reality for many writers and it’s a big part of why I have put off querying all this time. For who in their right mind would willingly expose to the public something into which they’ve poured immeasurable amounts of time, tears, angst, joy, and pieces of their heart if they knew it would meet with rejection? Yet that is what writers do all over the world every day. And so I have decided ahead of time I will try to have some fun with the likelihood of rejections so that when they come, they won’t be able to define who I am or beat me down with their whispers of seeming failure. I don’t know what that fun is going to look like yet, but I’ll keep you posted. 😉

“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is in the way you use them.” ~Tom Sims, 1922

 

And really, as a child of God, is it failure to receive rejection? The world measures success by how many books a writer publishes or how many paintings an artist sells or how big the profit margin looks for a given company, but God measures success in completely different ways. Though writing is a gift He’s given me, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will ever see publication. Even as I reach for it, I’m to pray for His guidance, trust Him with my hopes and dreams, and continue to step forward as He lights my path one day at a time. And if I succeed in doing that, then whether or not I have a book to my name, I haven’t truly failed, have I?

So here’s to the failures that come our way in 2015.

May we turn them on their heads and use them as stepping stones to further our progress up whatever mountain God has us climbing!

 

A Thankful Heart

Tuesdays are my writing days. My one day each week where I can sit on the couch with my laptop while my children are at school and write and ponder and hit the delete button and write some more…without guilt. I might write again on another day, but the guilt will tag along with it: I should be cleaning; I should be prepping a healthier dinner for tonight; I should be doing something more productive; I should be…

Now, any writers out there will know that setting aside only one day to write isn’t going to make a very productive writer. I get that. Believe me, it’s a source of frustration; but that’s reality for me right now.

That’s also a vent for another day. Today, I’m venting about the fact that too often my one day tends to be stripped from me—especially during this “corner” of the year…which is my favorite time to cuddle up with my thoughts and WRITE! A few weeks ago on a Tuesday, I had a dentist appointment in town, which cut into my time. Last week was Thanksgiving, thus on the Monday and Tuesday before my girls were home for the rest of the week, I needed to run errands and bake, which cut into my time. Even lunches are a pain on Tuesdays: what can I find that’s healthy to eat—but won’t take too much time to make? And how about what I’m doing now—a blog post? How fast can my perfectionist nature get it accomplished so I can move on to my WIP (work-in-progress)?

And if it’s not something physical, than it’s mental—again, the guilt that cloaks my shoulders long after events have happened that draped the guilt there in the first place. I yelled at my child this morning as we got ready for the day; bad mommy. My husband asked me to do a favor for him this morning after dropping the kids off at school and I fussed until he relented and said he’d do it himself; bad wifey. (Now, maybe I’m justified in that last one—it’s my writing day, honey!—but I still feel guilty that I’m selfishly choosing my needs over his needs. Mmm…fodder for yet another post?)

My point is this: I’ve been a crank since Halloween when I saw my schedule stretched out before me and realized how jam-packed it would be for the next three months; how jam-packed it will usually be during these three months. I’m going to have to deal with my attitude on that someday; reality isn’t going to change, so I have to, right? But because I’ve been a crank, I can’t come to the writing table today without doing something to offset it. So since I’m turning 38 next week, I’m going to thank God for 38 things He has blessed me with in and throughout my life. My hope is that announcing all these blessings will blast away the crankiness and I might be emotionally free to enjoy the rest of the day of writing.

This list is random and is in no particular order:

  1. Jesus and His mercy and forgiveness. Makes what I’m doing right now possible.
  2. My hubby, for putting up with my crankiness and complaints and loving me through the mess.
  3. My children, for the laughter and depth of love they bring into my life.
  4. My children, for the struggles they bring into my life—I will eventually be a better person for it. (Once I learn the lessons. 😉 )
  5. My friends, for loving me despite my faults and encouraging me on my moody days.
  6. Firewood, cut and stacked by Hubby within arms’ reach on the back porch (I just stoked the fire).
  7. A warm, well-built house.
  8. The ability to stay home even though my children are both in school.
  9. Christmas decorations.
  10. A 19 ½ year-old Buick Riviera that still works and is reliable. Thank you, Lord!
  11. Good health and the ability to exercise.
  12. My family’s good health year after year. Amazing how we take it for granted, until something small happens (I slept wrong!) and our entire body—and outlook on life—seems to suffer.
  13. My close relationships with my parents, siblings, and extended family.
  14. Childhood Thanksgivings spent at my grandparents’ house in NH that lasted throughout the weekend.
  15. The Internet. 🙂
  16. Well-written books, specifically fantasy and inspirational romance.
  17. My dolls (especially Ellowyne Wilde). 😉
  18. Elk and venison meat in the freezer.
  19. My church family.
  20. Cowboy boots.
  21. Running water.
  22. Hot water.
  23. Dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves—blessed contraptions that make life easier.
  24. My Blu-Ray TV; didn’t think I’d appreciate it as much as I do, but it makes watching Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Avenger series so much fun!
  25. Creativity; I might complain about my ability to create stories, but I have so many Word documents that attest to the opposite.
  26. Knitting needles and wool yarn.
  27. Coffee doused with cream.
  28. Chocolate covered cherries and puppy chow!
  29. Good food and grocery stores with stocked shelves.
  30. iPods and iPhones. 😉
  31. The ability to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
  32. Big Sky Country with its beautiful sun rises and sun sets.
  33. Mountain views from my south-facing windows.
  34. Evergreen-forested mountains in NH.
  35. Airplanes and, yes, TSA. Without them, visiting family would be almost non-existent.
  36. Laptops.
  37. Hubby’s job and the fact he enjoys going into work each (okay, most) days.
  38. My kids’ elementary school and the caring staff that greets them every morning.

 

I know a lot of those 38 things were materialistic in nature, but they are blessings God gave me above and beyond my daily needs. And I thank Him for them; they bring a smile to my face—and when some of them don’t work properly, boy, am I appreciative to have them functioning again (plumbing is a beautiful thing, is it not?)!

Thank you, Lord, for meeting my needs every day for the past 38 years and for blessing me with so many things I don’t really need at all…yet it pleases You to give them to me. It pleases You to give so many of us oodles of things we don’t need. Thank you. Please continue to foster in me a grateful, contented heart in a society that is obsessed with always wanting “more.” You are my “more.” May others see that in me, despite my faults and shortcomings, because of my weaknesses and sinful nature, for that’s when and where Your grace is exemplified. I am nothing and I have nothing without You. To You be the glory—always.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A Writer’s Prayer

dishes-197_1920Two writer buddies and I are driving to Edmonds, WA for a writer’s conference this weekend. We leave Friday morning and won’t be back until Monday evening. I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more: the conference, the four days exempt from making dinners and washing dishes, or the nineteen hours (give or take) of uninterrupted adult conversation while we travel to and from WA. For this mom, the opportunity to step away from the grindstone will be a blessing; the conference is a bonus. 😉

Despite my passion for (and struggles with) the craft of writing over the last fifteen years, I’ve only been to two writer’s conferences, the second of which I attended about seven years ago when we still lived in Nebraska. My very first conference was a five-day affair at the Gordon Seminary campus in Massachusetts when my now ten-and-a-half year old was only 18 months. While I might have been dealing with a lingering case of post partum depression, it was the writing insecurities and comparative-itis that plagued me to the point of tears. There I was, in my late twenties, crying in the bathroom like I was a hormonal teenager—and mind you, when I cry, my face shows its blotchy remnants for at least an hour afterward.

“Are you missing your little girl?” one well-meaning attendee asked as we passed each other on the campus grounds.

I gave her a polite smile through my blurry vision and continued on. Little did she know her innocent comment brought on a fresh tidal wave of tears—this time tears of guilt! For I did not miss my daughter…but maybe I was supposed to? Yet here’s the thing: not only did I know said daughter had both sets of grandparents doting on her, but I also knew I’d see her again at the end of five days. And when you’re a stay-at-home-mom, on call 24-7, you don’t sweat five days (at least, this mom didn’t!).

No. I was crying for more selfish, self-pitying reasons. I felt frustrated with my writing abilities (and incapabilities), my writer’s block (some will argue it doesn’t exist), and the high expectations I had put on myself to perform (expectations I couldn’t attain).

Plus, I had compared myself to the other writers in my group and come up short. Very short.

Comparative-itis. I think it plagues more of us than we know.

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That’s me on the left…next to every-other-writer-in-the-world on the right.

I still wrestle with that disease sometimes, along with the one that says, “I’m not good enough,” and the equally debilitating, “I’m not creative enough.” But God has been at work in me over the last ten months—molding me here, tugging me there—and I trust I’ll experience freedom from these deadweights eventually. (If my mind could just stay out of the way much of the time, I’d experience it a lot sooner!)

Baby steps, right? That’s what this faith journey is all about. Taking a step of faith, finding God is already there to meet you, taking another step, finding He has yet again provided…

I stepped out in faith earlier this year when I felt He was asking me to start this blog. And I stepped out once more in August when He nudged me to sign up for this upcoming conference. Yes, it takes faith for me to willingly surround myself with other, more accomplished, writers, and it requires me to rely on God’s strength to stand fast against the insecurities and feelings of inadequacy that threaten to block my creativity.

My prayer is that I would apply what He has been teaching me and rest in confident assurance that I’m exactly where He wants me at this stage in my life. Any future success I might have in my writing career has more to do with God’s timing than on my own talent as a writer. And the prominence and abilities of other writers don’t factor into my future at all. So no comparing, Laurie!

This weekend I’m leaving my Inner-Critic at home to hang with Self-Doubt and Inadequacy. They can play their little mind games over a wallow of pity without me.

This weekend, I pray it’s just me and God (and two treasured writer buddies) out for a time of fun, rejuvenation, and inspiration.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 New International Version (NIV)

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Love means no condemnation…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Several years ago, writing and I fell into a love-hate relationship. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than turning a blank document on Microsoft Word into a colorful, angst-ridden world that gives life and breath and movement to the characters inside my head (note: I did say characters, not voices). Over the course of four hundred pages’ worth of troubles and triumphs, these characters serve to reflect the nuances of my relationship with God—the whining and agonized prayers, the comfort and grace-filled epiphanies, the stubbornness that eventually gives way to surrender.

On a fantastic writing day...

On a fantastic writing day…

On the flip-side, there is nothing more devastating to my sense of purpose than living with the insatiable urge to write and having the time to write…yet the words

…won’t

…come!

Those are the days Perfectionism barrels in, uninvited, to perch on my shoulder with its unforgiving claws. Seconds later it’s joined by the Inner Critic, who, knowing I’m prone to pessimism and self-condemnation, takes great delight in badgering me, beating me with ugly, vicious labels and lies that, in my frustrated state, I believe.

On a horrible writing day...

On a horrible writing day…

It’s in this state that I shake my fist at God and cry out, “If You gave me the passion and talent to write, why didn’t You give me the creativity to make something of it?”

For I used to believe God was behind my inability to craft a plausible story. Correction: a story that met my ridiculously high standards.

And then a few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who is aware of my struggles. After listening to me vent about my latest writing woes and lament over the myriad responsibilities infringing on my allotted writing time, Linda stated matter-of-factly, “It sounds like the devil doesn’t want you to write.”

Thunk.

Bull’s eye.

(Sometimes it’s hard to hear God’s voice. Other times, it ricochets off the rafters. That day, it came through the simple words of a friend.)

Why hadn’t it hit me sooner?

God is Love. Would Love offer me a gift only to dangle it out of reach and tease me with it to the point I’m a paralyzed heap of living matter sobbing on the kitchen floor (yes, I’ve been there)? Love would not…but the devil would. It fills him with twisted glee to see God’s children immobilized by despair and insecurities; that makes them ineffective and ineffective means a job isn’t getting done for the Kingdom.

Too bad for him God is also Truth, the knowledge of which happens to set His children free. And when His Truth poured from the words of my friend, the devil’s chains disintegrated; his hold over me is gone.

Now, I’m not saying all my writing hours since then have been happy-happy-joy-joy, but I don’t approach my stories with the feeling God’s against me anymore—and that’s empowering.

Something else I’ve learned: writing is not only one of my strengths, but it’s also one of my weaknesses. I understand now that God has purposely left some gaps in my abilities in order to leave room for Him. These gaps force me to rely on His strength and His guidance…and they allow me to experience His presence and His pleasure.

As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [italics mine]. It’s time we all rise from the kitchen floor and tell that devil where to go.

Life: One Row At a Time

A few posts back I mentioned knitting Teva Durham’s Cabled Riding Jacket, a beautiful, form-fitting jacket, but only accomplished via an intimidating, advanced knitting pattern. It took almost five years from when I bought Ms. Durham’s book, Loop-d-Loop, before I finally steeled my resolve to knit the jacket. A few things hindered me. First: I didn’t consider myself to be an advanced knitter. Second and third: Not only did the instructions for the pattern seem so complex and confusing, but I also knew I’d be coming at this pattern backwards, for I’m a self-taught left-handed knitter. Fourth: Online comments from fellow knitters, discouraged with a certain part of this pattern, had me questioning the feasibility of completing such a project. (Since those comments, errata are available here.)

The point is that for several years, I allowed my own insecurities about my knitting skills plus the frustrations and doubts of others to inhibit me from giving the pattern a try.

How many of us, I wonder, have avoided certain projects simply because the end results seemed too complicated, too unachievable with our limited knowledge? How many of us have given up on a dream because the path seemed impossible to traverse from where we stood at the crossroads? (I’m raising my hand, too.) Did you know that every knitted project I’ve ever done has been accomplished one row at a time? I know, I know: That’s obvious. Duh! But that means when I was knitting along on row 10, I really shouldn’t have worried about how I would handle integrating all the side notes and “At the same time” portions of the pattern—because I wasn’t there yet! It wasn’t until after I arrived at those sections that I had a better understanding of the instructions…and by then I found it easier to manage!

Life is like knitting. We can only take it one row—one day—at a time. Often, however, we allow ourselves to get overwhelmed thinking about our schedules for next week or next month, or we get panicky over where we might be (or not be) a year from now. And we exert mental energy trying to figure out all the “what if’s” that could happen between now and then to ensure we have a game plan for every scenario. (Okay, maybe I should change all those “we’s” to “I’s”.)

My husband and I are reading through the calendar-version of Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, and one of its recurring themes is learning to focus on today. What does God want me to do today? What does He want to teach me today? I’m not promised tomorrow or next month, so while there’s nothing wrong in making loose plans for the future, to fret about that future wastes time and effort better spent on living in the present.

For example, I have young children ages ten and seven, and over the years I’ve heard many people say, “Oh, just wait ’til they become teenagers!” (A non-threatening way to imply it’s bound to get worse than it already is.) Considering how society seems headed in the opposite direction of my Christian values, I have a tendency to worry about how I’m going to steer my girls through that tumultuous period of life. But here’s the thing I have to remember: I don’t have teenagers yet. God hasn’t equipped me with the strength and wisdom and patience I need to handle teens because He’s equipping me with what I need now to handle my tweens. (And who knows? Maybe by the time I get there, I’ll find my kids are generally obedient, loving, and respectful. If it could happen to my parents…)

In the end, there’s something extremely freeing in knowing I don’t have to agonize over tomorrow; God’s already there and He’s got my back. All He’s asking me to do is take care of today—and He’d love it if I held His hand while I went about it.

So the next time you find yourself face-to-page with a daunting knitting pattern, just remember to approach it row by row. Taken in stitch-sized segments, it won’t seem so overwhelming.

Taken in daily doses, Life isn’t so overwhelming, either.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Matthew 6:34 The Message, copyright 2005.